A group of organic food advocates is considering a lawsuit to allow the sale of raw milk in Georgia. It comes in the wake of the disposal of more than a hundred gallons of the product in Athens last month.
State agriculture inspectors say they stumbled upon a delivery of unpasteurized — or raw milk — during a routine inspection of an Athens-area farmer’s market. Because Georgia law bans the sale or dispensing of raw milk for human consumption, the 110-gallon shipment was impounded and disposed.
The milk was bought through an online organic buyer’s market. But it came from South Carolina, where its sale is legal. Advocates say no laws were broken — state officials say otherwise, as federal law prohibits the transport of raw milk for human consumption across state lines.
Oscar Garrison is assistant commissioner with Georgia’s Department of Agriculture and heads consumer protection. He says the department looks to actively promote the sustainable food movement, but also must enforce laws on the books:
"It’s very unfortunate that because of all the positive things that have been associated with these markets, that this little bit of negative publicity seems to be taking the light off of what these markets actually bring to a community and its citizens.”
But Eric Wagoner with the online farmer’s market Athens Locally Grown says they’ve been lobbying officials and lawmakers in recent years to reverse the raw milk ban.
"I think there has been some progress," says Wagoner. "I don’t know if there’s any chance of it coming to fruition real soon, but we’ve got a starting point."
Wagoner says that starting point could be the filing of a federal lawsuit.
Meanwhile, Georgia agriculture officials are reviewing the case to see if they’ll take action against those connected to the raw milk sale and delivery.